Learning Curves by Marilyn Freeman

You would think that at my age, I would have learned enough to get me through life, but maybe not quite – yet!

My whole life seems to have been one long learning curve. When I left school and entered the world of work as an experimental officer in the Research Department of I.C.I. I was convinced that after 13 years of education, I knew it all. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to discover that I actually knew very little that could possibly be of use in the development of Gas Liquid Chromatography!

I’d just about got to grips with that when I was faced with the delights of Mass Spectroscopy, then on to the formulation and manufacture toiletry products such as shampoos and hair conditioners.

At this stage in my life, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I actually enjoyed gaining new knowledge and skills. Due to my husband being made redundant I then became a shopkeeper for three mind-numbing years. Not the most exciting time of my life, I have to admit. Things got a little more exciting when hubby was offered a job in Nigeria. This move found me playing ‘madame’ on the old colonial circuit in a supporting role to my then husband as he nurtured his career. That was definitely a sharp learning curve. I hadn’t had much opportunity to manage servants and organise majong sessions or coffee mornings, in Hollinwood, on the outskirts of a smokey northern town, but I did my best.

On returning to the UK, fate led me to a part time job in a company selling carpets – I know – what did that have to do with shampoo? Well, nothing, but with a couple of children to look after, I could only take a part time job, which were pretty rare in laboratories in those days. Anyway, I digress. While at the carpet warehouse I resumed my self-development programme by taking a touch typing course. Over the years, this skill has been more useful than all my other acquired skills put together!

Another family move when I once again took up a supporting role to my successful husband, now found us in a small village in Bedfordshire, with few opportunities for self-development, although I did try my hand at selling jewelry by holding little parties for bored housewives. Not a great way to earn a living, I’m afraid, but quite enjoyable at the time.

Fate took a hand again when I found a part-time job at a small engineering company in Bedford and I met my now husband. We were both made redundant as the firm moved out of the area. Both needing a job, we set up a company manufacturing – yes, you’ve got it – toiletries! Now I had several learning curves to climb all at once – business management, marketing and sales, company accounting and product development. We had some great contracts including one to supply the QE2 with giveaway packs for the bathrooms. Over the next six years there was plenty of opportunity for self-development, but perhaps I didn’t learn some things well enough, as the business eventually failed, sadly.

Now divorced and remarried, it was back to shop life, I’m afraid – needs must! This time, with aging parents needing support, after divorce and remarriage to my business partner, we headed north to Burnley. There we ran an ‘open all hours’ shop for the next few years while at the same time developing yet another business – ironing! I know what you’re thinking – why would anyone want to make a living ironing other people’s clothes? If only you knew how often I asked myselft that question!

Eventually liberated from the daily grind, my husband, always the inventor and entrepreneur, and after watching myself and my ironing ladies slaving away with smoothing irons, developed an idea for an ironing machine. This was an exciting time. The idea was unique and found enthusiasm in many quarters, eventually winning an innovation competition, the prize being an office facility within Manchester University, assistance to develop the idea and a laptop computer. Once more I hit the learning curve. This time I had to hone my computer skills, sales technique, presentation skills and accounting nonce. I think one could call this venture a success as we were able to sell over 100 machines before, sadly, the company who had been supporting us went bust and took us with it!

Well, in 2004 that just about ended the story of my chequered business career, but not, I hasten to add, an end to the learning curves. Since then, I have discovered the world of self-publishing. My husband had been writing books for children for many years and now we set about getting them into print. This meant finding my way around editing, proofing and creating books, then formatting and publishing them. Along the way I did the same for a few private clients which was very enjoyable.

So, was I finally done with learning stuff? Well, no, actually. In my wisdom I decided to ‘become’ a counsellor and embarked on three years of training at Bedford College before discovering that to be a counsellor means volunteering for years before there is any chance of finding paid work. It’s a bit of a closed shop, like so many professions. I did put my counselling skills to use though, by becoming a bereavement support volunteer for three years. During this time I learned not only about counselling, but more importantly, much about myself.

Surely, this must be it now. Surely I have done learning? Well, no, actually, fate had one last throw of the dice in the shape of the Corona Virus pandemic. Stuck in lockdown with little to do, the thought struck me that now was the time to write that novel I had been thinking about for some time. One last learning curve then, how to write a novel! I took a couple of short online writing courses but didn’t really enjoy them, finding them rather restricting. So, ironically the final chapter of my life to date had no learning curve to it at all! I simply sat at my computer and started to write, drawing on all the varied experiences of my life.

Having said that, I guess every learning curve I’ve ever been on has contributed in some way to the life experiences I now draw upon. And who knows, this may not even be the last chapter!

There may yet be time for more learning!

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Bringing My Story to Life!

Karma: A Mystery in Paris

As I was writing Karma, in my imagination, I was strolling through the streets of Paris, surrounded by all the unique sights, smells and sounds of that exciting city. I had hoped to be able to convey to my readers all that my senses were experiencing in my imagination, and to make my story as real for them as it was for me.

When it was finished and I proudly received and read that first copy, it was exciting to see the words that had been born inside my head actually there on the page in front of me. I have been thrilled by the response from everyone who has read it and am able to feel fairly satisfied that I must have created a reasonable approximation to the world of my imagination.

I was saddened though, that several of the people I know were excluded from the experience because their inability, for various reasons, to be able read it. It was then that I began to explore the possibility of creating an audiobook. To my delight it turns out that this is easier and less expensive than one might think.

Using ACX.com, within hours I had commissioned my audio producer, a lovely lady called Virginia Ferguson, whose narrating skills are excellent. She brings my characters to life and suddenly Karma is no longer only in my imagination. Furthermore, my work will now be accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability to hear or see clearly.

In this extract, Adrienne, having just reached a dead end in her quest to discover what happened to her mother after she left home ten years ago, is distraught, until Paris works its magic and she begins to see exactly what she must do next.

The audiobook is still in production but I am so excited that soon it will be available online.

For any authors who would like to turn their work into an audiobook, I would say go for it and bring your story to life! It is easier than you think!

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Marilyn Freeman, Author


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